At Purim time, many months ago, attendees of a weekly shiur [class] of mine got together and purchased a gift certificate for two, for my Rebbetzin and me to enjoy dinner at the Windsor Arms Hotel, here in Toronto. It's a fancy establishment, and they provide kosher dinners by reservation on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings. You order an appetizer, a main and a dessert, and that's $75 (before taxes), and there is a wine list as well.
The generous idea of the shiur was to offer a night's break before Pesach, but that wasn’t entirely realistic. As a result of the less-than-sane schedules we kept this past year, we couldn't take advantage of the generous and gracious gift. It was not until last week that we were able to use it.
I must say, I enjoyed the experience immensely; as some of you know, I admire and enjoy well-prepared food. [The menu is available here; the picture isn't great, and you'll need to magnify it in order to see anything above the wine list.] But more, it gave me an insight into what a Pesach Seder should be.
The room was luxuriously appointed. The server was congenial. The pace was leisurely; we could talk and take our time. And so, days after Tishah b'Av, I felt like I was enjoying what a Seder was meant to be: A slow-paced discussion, in beautiful surroundings adding to one's feeling of well-being if not royalty. We don't get to Shulchan Aruch for hours not because the Haggadah has placed page after page of text in our way, but because we aren't in any rush, we've broken from the hurly-burly haste of our lives and we are free to discuss and debate and reflect, and the food will be there when we are ready for it.
Of course, that doesn't happen at our sedarim, in general.
First, because the stress of preparing for Pesach leaves people frazzled.
Second, because the more luxury you create with fine dishes and cutlery, the more you need to clean up afterward and have piled up in your kitchen until the end of Yom Tov, ruining the atmosphere considerably.
Third, because the people who are supposed to be enjoying the seder are the same people who need to prepare the food in the kitchen.
And fourth, because the leisurely discussion is enforced by the pages of text, and isn't necessarily good for small children and elderly relatives and people who aren't familiar with the nature of Torah study and debate and don't understand what's going on.
Still, I feel that this is the answer to the age-old question of why we hold the meal at the Seder until after page after page of discussion. It's not meant to be torture; it's meant to show that we are taking our time, we are not rushed, we are enjoying a beautiful table, wonderful company, and the luxury of being able to proceed at our own pace.
[And yes, this is a direct contrast with the chipazon haste of Egypt, but that's a topic for another time.]